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Elgin council candidates weigh in on OCTAVE survey and forum

Updated: February 12, 2013 2:27PM

ELGIN — At least three of the candidates for Elgin City Council seats have decided not to attend A forum hosted by the activist group OCTAVE Saturday night, while quite a few of those running questioned A survey OCTAVE sent to them in advance of the session, AND some refusing to answer it.

OCTAVE (Operant Conditioning to Achieve Voter Effectiveness) member and co-founder Chuck Keysor sent the candidates an email with a link to an online form that posed some yes-or-no questions and asked candidates to rate others on a scale of agreement.

Nine candidates are running for a two-year seat, which has a primary Feb. 26; and 13 are running for three four-year spots, with the general election being held April 9.

Incumbents Robert Gilliam and Rich Dunne, and challenger Tom Armstrong, said they won’t be going to the forum, set for 6 p.m. Saturday at New Covenant Church, 865 Parkway Ave.

All three said they felt the survey was biased and the questions framed in a loaded way. Candidate Grace Richard said she did not fill out the survey, as she had not decided if she would attend the forum.

“When it was first sent, I emailed Chuck (Keysor) and asked for a meeting with myself and another candidate (Jerri McCue) so we could learn more about the organization. Initially he indicated he would be happy to do that. I never heard from him again,” Richard said.

“His subsequent email asking us to complete it by indicating our philosophy regarding a topic regardless of the merits/non merits of the issue are to me an indication of one of the problems with our current government on a national basis — my way or the highway, resulting in gridlock. That’s something I don’t believe we need in Elgin,” Richard stated in an email.

While he will attend the meeting, Steve Knight did not fill out the questionnaire from OCTAVE and told The Courier-News, “The only place I know of in this country which requires you to answer Yes/No is a court of law. The last time I looked, no one in OCTAVE was a serving judge on any recognized court in this country. I will not be forced into making a decision without first being fully informed as to what the issue is. This is the only way someone can fully explain why they made the decision they did and why the decision had to be made.”

‘They need help’

Knight also took objection to a statement he attributed to Keysor: “The reality is, that most matters up for vote by the council are typically decided upon by the philosophies of the individual council members, and the studies really only provide a cover for the vote. That is why you will see certain members of the council always vote to raise taxes and fees, no matter what a study says, and others will always oppose them no matter what a study says.”

“If this is truly the belief of Mr. Keysor and the OCTAVE group then, well, let’s just say they need help,” Knight told The Courier-News.

Mitch Esterino stated he is looking forward to presenting his case Saturday and “excited, as an opponent and a voter, to hear what the other candidates have to say. (But) I did not answer the survey as, I felt, only yes-or-no answers to so many detailed questions and situations are just too vague.”

Craig Dresang intends to attend but didn’t fill out the survey as it was written, instead providing more in-depth answers.

“Boiling down open-ended issues to yes/no answers does a disservice to both voters and council candidates. The results of this kind of survey are contrived and the questions are leading, therefore it is dishonest. It was designed to serve not the general voting population of Elgin but the purposes of Elgin OCTAVE. I believe that as voting residents, they have every right to ask the questions they asked of the candidates, but they do not have the right to coerce certain types of answers,” Dresang stated in an email.

More than yes or no

“I did answer the survey, but I feel that many of the issues raised in the survey are complicated and require more than a yes or no answer,” stated Andrew Cuming, who will attend the session. “Therefore, I have put my extended answers to all of the questions on the survey on my website,, where I encourage everyone in Elgin to go.”

Cody Holt stated, “Even if a group may have a slight bias, the Elginites attending may not. So it is essential to show them where we stand. I also filled out the questionnaire, and I believe that the yes/no format leaves room for discussion and debate at the forum.”

“Although I did not agree with how all of the questions were written, I did answer all of the questions,” stated Toby Shaw, who will attend. “I believe that voters will get an overall sense on where the candidates stand by reviewing the results at a macro level.”

“I wanted to attend so that I can meet and discuss issues and ideas with potential voters, explain my views on survey questions, and see where the other candidates stand on various issues as well.,” Jason Dusenbury stated. “ ... Although I feel many of the answers are not all black/white, yes/no type answers, I hope to be able to further explain why I answered in the manner I did at the forum,”

And for their parts, Tom McCarthy and Terry Gavin filled out the survey and plan to attend the forum.

“It is my belief that any and all citizens’ groups deserve the opportunity to hear what the candidate’s positions are, plain and simple. The same holds true with regards to their forums,” Gavin stated.

How contacted

As for the methodology for researching this story, The Courier-News contacted the 19 candidates whose email addresses were included on a contact list of those running put together by the city clerk’s office.

Of the 19 contacted, three candidates did not fill out the survey and won’t attend Saturday (Dunne, Gilliam, Armstrong); one did not complete the survey and was undecided about attending (Richard) ; two will attend, without filling out the survey (Knight, Esterino); one will attend but provided lengthy answers (Dresang); and five will attend and filled out the survey (Holt, Gavin, Shaw, Dusenbury, McCarthy).

Seven of the 19 for whom email addresses were provided did not reply to The Courier-News.

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